Challenges in the administration of a loved one's estate

Clearing up the financial aspect after a loved one's death can be more complicated than some Georgia residents think. First of all, someone must be designated as the executor of that person's estate. The will may have one already designated, or if the assets are in a trust, the trust document will have designated a trustee.

An executor, be it one appointed in the will, a trustee or an administrator appointed by the probate courts, must identify all of the decedent's assets, pay off debts and ensure that what's left is distributed to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. While a professional executor can be helpful, especially when dealing with unreasonable heirs, a family member may need to be it, in which case he or she must prepare for some time-consuming work.

The executor will need to obtain a death certificate and, if the decedent was married and designated as a co-trustee in a revocable trust, update the revocable trust. Usually, an adult child replaces the decedent as co-trustee. These updates must be made before the remaining spouse dies; otherwise, the trust becomes irrevocable.

When the decedent was financially comfortable, there's the additional challenge of selling a high-end home. This is where real estate agents and estate liquidators may have to come in. Paying taxes can be another obstacle.

It's important that all adults, not just the elderly, do something in the way of estate planning. This can range from the drafting of a simple will to the setting up of an advance directive, which lays down what one wishes to be done in terms of end-of-life care. If individuals die without doing so, they die intestate, which means their estate will be distributed by the state. To ensure an estate plan that honors their wishes, individuals may want to consult a lawyer.

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